Archive for July, 2012

William Shakespeare

For the rest of the semester, we’ll be focusing on William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. As an introduction, take some time to read through the Study of William Shakespeare section on pages 1516-1528 in the BL.

Note the illustration of the Globe Theater, where Shakespeare’s plays were performed, on page 1522. The Globe was set up so that people from all different classes of society could enjoy the plays. The more money a person could pay, the better the seating; standing on the ground were the poorest members of society.

Also pay particular attention to the Note on Reading Shakespeare on page 1526. As they say, people never really spoke the way the characters do in Shakespeare’s plays. Hamlet is poetry and the characters are speaking in poetic verse. Therefore, it can be difficult to understand what the characters are saying sometimes. Follow the numbered list of tips provided to help you in understanding the play.

For your blog, I just want you to write a paragraph describing your previous experiences with Shakespeare’s plays. Have you read any in other classes? If so, which ones? Have you seen any performed? If so, which ones? If you’ve read and/or seen any of the plays, what did you think of them? Did you enjoy them? How well were you able to follow them?


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Oftentimes when we write, we want to start at the beginning, write through to the end, and then say we’re finished and submit it. However, more than often we don’t really know what our argument will be until we’ve started writing the body. When I write, I’m constantly going back and changing the introduction to fit to what I’m writing in the body. Resist the feeling that your paper is finished just because you’ve already written something down.

When writing your papers, try this method:

  1. Pick a theme that you find in each of the three poems. Refer to the “Key to Themes” box on page 2161 of the BL for suggestions on themes that you can use. These include things like Love and Longing, Nature, Animals, Childhood, Fear, Religion, Work, Gender, etc.
  2. Quickly write a very rough introduction and then set it aside. Don’t worry about how good it is, as you will be rewriting it.
  3. Write one paragraph for each of the poems you want to study, and write about how you think that poem addresses your theme.
  4. Once you’ve written three paragraphs, think about how the poems compare with each other. How are the themes treated differently? How are they treated the same?
  5. Go back and revise your introduction in a way that lets the reader know what all to expect in the rest of the paper. Summarize in a few sentences what you’ve written in the body. Create a thesis statement that makes an argument for how the three poems compare and contrast with each other. Be as specific as possible.
  6. Connect all of the paragraphs together using transitional phrases that help guide the reader through your argument.
  7. Write a conclusion that briefly restates what you’ve written in the body and provides something further for the reader to consider.
  8. Proofread.

Remember, just because something makes sense to you when you’re writing it, it may not make sense to somebody who doesn’t have access to your own thoughts. The reader only has what’s on the page to guide him or her, so make sure that you make your points clear.

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For this assignment, you will write a sonnet, either Italian or English, and post it to your blog. The sonnet will be worth up to 5 points added on to your final grade. It is due by August 13th at midnight. The number of points you earn will be based on the following:

  • Ability to keep the correct rhyme scheme
  • Ability to keep to iambic pentameter
  • Correct spelling, punctuation and grammar
  • For Italian sonnets, ability to use the sestet to respond to the octave
  • For English sonnets, ability to use the final, rhyming couplet to sum up the poem

Refer back to the presentation on sonnets for a refresher on these terms and concepts and for examples of Italian and English sonnets.

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Genius in a catch 22?.

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My Last Duchess.

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Here is a link to the text of Charles Bukowski’s The Genius of the Crowd: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-genius-of-the-crowd/

And here is a clip of Bukowski reading a shortened version of his poem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gifEn61dZBc

And here is a fan-made video that adds animations and background music to his poem: http://vimeo.com/31802865

After taking in the poem, respond to the following questions:

1. How is The Genius of the Crowd similar to Whitman’s I sing the body electric? How do both establish a rhythm in spite of not having  a fixed form?

2. Bukowski does not use many specific images in this poem. How does this affect your understanding of the poem? What would change if he added specific images?

3. In the last line, Bukowski makes an allusion to the death of Socrates through his mention of hemlock. How does this allusion add to the meaning of the poem? (You may need to research Socrates if you aren’t aware of this story.)

4. This is a didactic poem. What is it trying to teach? Do you agree?

5. What is your response to open form poetry in general? Where do you draw the line between poetry and prose?

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My Last Duchess

Robert Browning was known for his dramatic monologues, poems that are entirely spoken by a created persona. My Last Duchess is an example of one of these. Read through the poem several times, and without looking it up try to answer the following questions:

1. Who is the speaker?

2. Who is he speaking to and why?

3. What happened to the Duchess?

4. Finally, think about how Browning uses dramatic irony in this poem. Dramatic irony happens when we, the reader of a poem or watcher of a play, are aware of something that the characters in the poem or play are not. In other words, what does the speaker in My Last Duchess unintentionally reveal about his character? How is this revelation different from what he thinks about himself?

The following enactment of the poem might help you get a better understanding of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wON8-glDb0

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